Beauty in Brokenness

By J. Michael Shannon

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying ‘Take and eat; this is my body’” (Matthew 26:26).

At one time or another we all must deal with broken things. As children, we break toys. Later we deal with a broken car or a broken appliance. Occasionally we drop a cup or glass and it breaks. More significant is the certainty of broken relationships.

Broken things often tell a story of sorrow and disappointment, but there is also power and, occasionally, joy in what has been broken. Great power for good or ill can come from a broken atom. An archeologist may rejoice in the discovery of a broken jar.

There is beauty in the broken. Broken pieces of glass can be placed in a kaleidoscope that, when held up to the light, brings great pleasure. An artist can take pieces of broken tile and create a mosaic masterpiece.

There are power, joy, and beauty in the broken elements we encounter at the Lord’s table. First, there is broken bread, the product of crushing grain, at the table. Often, as part of the service, we ceremonially break the bread. Behind that image is the broken body of Christ. His bones were not broken, but his body was broken by the thorns, spear, and nails. Can we also see the broken heart of Jesus as he died for our sins?

And here we can remember our own brokenness. Our hearts may be broken as we ponder our own sins and consider the price Jesus paid for their remission. Our broken hearts will lead us to repent and seek God’s grace. When our hearts are broken, God can bring new power to our lives. When we experience forgiveness, there is new joy in our lives. When our broken hearts are given to God, he can make our lives beautiful again.


J. Michael Shannon is professor of preaching at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.

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